It’s time to sit down and have a difficult discussion about Tears of the Kingdom. I know that you’ve heard from just about every source how this is the game of the year, one of the best games of all time, etc. Well I’m here to let you down gently because it did not reach those heights. I would argue that the first game actually defeats it overall. Tears of the Kingdom ultimately tried to be too ambitious and tried too many things with a lot of them not working out. That’s the big problem here and I say this as someone who has always been a big Legend of Zelda fan. It just wasn’t ready for this and I think the series should go back to the really big story based titles like Skyward Sword. The open world format is cool but it needs extensive fixes.
Well first off the story starts with Zelda and Link exploring some ruins. Unfortunately this does go very well and Zelda goes missing, lost into the winds. Link wakes up on the sky islands and needs to find a way to get going. He must save Princess Zelda from Ganondorf who has returned to destroy the world. Link will need to meet up with various friends and allies as he reawakens the Master Sword and saves the day but can he do this?
Lets talk about some of my issues with the game. First up, they kept the whole breakable weapons mechanic. So every few swings your weapons are going to keep on shattering. Over and over and over again. Yes you now have the ability to fuse weapons with objects which is a new mechanic to the game but this only delays the inevitable as they will both be destroyed before long. The only exception is the Master Sword which still breaks but it will eventually regenerate. This is a mechanic that should have been removed by now because all it really does is force some extra length into the game instead of just letting you have fun. I don’t know about you but I want to have fun and I want to have fun now!!
Then there is the new Ultrahand mechanic to which a large part of the game is built around. With this you can lift up almost any object in the game. This helps a lot with puzzles and such as you jump from platform to platform. The thing is, it’s not a mechanic that is super fun to use. I think it could have been in small doses like using it once in a while but having to do it constantly is something else. Building objects and such is good fun at time but the game is too focused on having you do it all the time. As it is you don’t have much time to just play the game.
You maybe fight someone once every few hours but for the mot part you’re doing a lot of running and map exploring. I managed to scope out almost the whole Depths can a fairly early period in the game and likewise opened up the lighthouses. It is really good to be able to see the map at least and they didn’t exaggerate about the overall size of the kingdom. The game is absolutely massive and it would take forever to run from one side to the other. It is absolutely impressive and I’ll give the egame credit there. They just should have skipped the overall gimmicks so all of the different styles would be gone and you’re just having fun with combat.
The actual combat is smooth but it feels like that is rarely something you need to do. Aside from the occasional boss you don’t have much incentive to take down the minions. You can get some material for beating them but not much. So you’re just going to be doing a lot of running instead and probably getting stuck at some point by those puzzles. I certainly got stuck plenty of times. In the end it took me 55 hours to complete the game and I feel like a good chunk of that was running around in circles because I didn’t know where to go.
There are a ton of sidequests and bonus content to access but most of them are behind puzzles as well so get ready to try and figure those out. Additionally don’t forget that you have to complete a bunch of shrines to get the stars needed to level up your health and stamina. The game may try to present itself as a rue open world where you can make any choices you want but that isn’t always the case. For example there is one boss that you can’t reach unless you get past a stamina door and to do that you had to buy at least 5 stamina upgrades. I wanted to max out hearts and that’s what I had been doing but this forced me to change gears.
Also I believe the open world is to blame for this game not having much in the story. After each temple they play the same cutscene over and over again and just zoom in on a different character depending on the temple. It means that the game froze the progression right here and that’s no good. By the time you get to the end of the game it really doesn’t feel like there was a ton of story that you got through.
At least the climax was a lot of fun though. Lin’s battle stance where he gets ready and the Master Sword lights up was brilliant. That was a great moment all around and is exactly what you like to see in a AAA title. Link has been through a lot but when the going gets tough he is always ready to hang in there. The battle involves a lot of dodging and parrying so you do need to really be on point here. Especially since I had used up all of my hearts earlier thanks to the gloom. I had to beat the final boss and the various phases without taking any hits to my hearts. It took me over 2 hours of trying over and over again but eventually I did manage to succeed.
That was easily the highlight of the game for me because I did feel good in conquering that challenge. I’d argue that the game design wasn’t the best to put you in such a rough circumstance since I feel like most wouldn’t be able to pull that off. Of course there is extra gear and food that you could have gotten to avoid that which is worth noting. The game really wants you to stick around and try all of the content so you can go into the final boss well prepared. It’s a noble goal and I know there is a lot to the game but at the end of the day there just isn’t enough to keep you here. Once you complete the game then you are likely out.
The soundtrack is definitely more on the forgettable side but I suppose I wouldn’t say that it’s bad. You just don’t feel like you will need to Youtube the themes afterwards. The graphics are definitely great here. I would have liked to have had Link’s classic green tunic throughout the game though. Lately it feels like that costume doesn’t appear enough even though it’s the best one. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere in the mode but I was hoping I would get it for the final boss.
Nobody can say that the game is short though. 55 hours just to complete the campaign is really impressive and in terms of overall content I wouldn’t be surprised if this is around 100-150 hours. There is so much to do here. The game can also be fun when you are just relaxing and not having to do anything. The problem is that the game reminds you of what’s coming all the time. Just when you’re unwinding the game throws another puzzle at you or some kind of cryptic clue. You simply can’t escape it.
This all sounds pretty negative so just for the record the reason why I would still call the game good is because the gameplay itself is good. The combat is on point and I enjoy the parrying system. The characters are good and the story is solid when it appears with a cinematic once in a while. You will get real annoyed on many occasions and will need to put the game down for a while since long batches can hurt the experience but at the end of the day it’s a game that you won’t regret buying.
Overall, Tears of the Kingdom is one of the weaker Legend of Zelda games for me but I will applaud it on really trying to be as ambitious as possible. It is a huge game but the gimmicks just ended up bringing the experience down. Sometimes less is more and just letting me fight the enemies without having to worry about things would have been great. I want more story and more action next time. Throw those things into the game and I would enjoy it a whole lot more. I would still recommend the game if you want to travel through the kingdom and have fun. I’m confident that you will have a good time here but you will also get irritated at times so definitely keep that in mind. The game is very much a rollercoaster.